“We must be familiar with our own mythology, not only to understand our ancestors, but also to understand ourselves. Of course, for a contemporary person not familiar with mythology, just being told to read myths will not necessarily convince them of why it is important. They must encounter their living power through experience; they must see them as a story.” – John Milliken ’22 “The Hero’s Journey in Darmok”
On Saturday, February 23, the college hosted its second annual Classical Reception Conference. During the conference several people both from the college and from other colleges and universities presented papers on instances of classical reception, which is where a contemporary work draws heavy influence from a classical work.
Representing the college, four students, Sean Haefner ’19, Hannah Lanier ’21, Maria Miller ’22, and John Milliken ’22, as well as Professor Mary Mumbach, each presented a paper. Their topics consisted of comedy in Alcestis and the Winter’s Tale; classical feminism in Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Tale; Eowyn from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings compared to Antigone from Sophocles The Oedipus Cycle; a contemporary adaptation of The Epic of Gilgamesh; and the classical vision in the poetry of the American South.
Commenting on why she chose a Tolkien character as her topic, Maria Miller ’22 remarked, “I’m very passionate about the philosophy of Tolkien …I’m very passionate about Tolkien period.” In her paper she compared Eowyn to Antigone in their situations in life, the customs and layout of their cities, their tough choices, and their incredible bravery. Indeed, Miss Miller drew several parallels between the two figures, concluding that both women chose to face trials and the possibility of death in order to defend those they love. When asked why she believed these classical reception conferences were important, she replied that she believed it was a wonderful way to take the interests of the contemporary world and connect them back to history.
Similarly, Giovanna Beecher, a part-time student at the college also noted the importance of connecting back to history. “Our world is so sped up and digital that it is important to take time and reflect on basic human goals and values.”
Indeed, the conference offered a wonderful opportunity to realize how much we draw from the classics and to understand the world better. As John Milliken ‘22 stated in his paper, “We must be familiar with our own mythology, not only to understand our ancestors, but also to understand ourselves.”
– Contributed by Adriana Smith ’22